Recently I went on a forest protection pilgrimage to Gumbaynggirr Country on the Mid North Coast of NSW, together with others from the Uniting Church’s Forest Advocacy Ministry.
Walking through the forests, I experienced myself as merely one part of the diversity of life.
In the biblical book of Acts, the Apostle Paul says: “The God who made the world and all that is in it … is the One who gives everyone life, breath—everything … the One in whom we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:24-28)
Forests are arks of biological diversity and are critical to maintaining the Earth’s life support systems. They regulate the climate, store carbon, prevent erosion, lessen flooding and preserve water quality. They are also the lungs of the earth. Their outbreath is our inbreath, their inbreath our outbreath.
Walking through intact forests, senses alive, it is possible to grow in love for the forests. Love that is deeper than naïve romanticism – there are snakes, ticks and leeches, exposure risks, it is possible to be injured or lost, to disappear. Love that leads citizen scientists to do their own surveys to gather the evidence (tree diameters, koala sightings) that is needed to protect critical habitat. Love that leads some people to grapple, again and again, with the slippery processes of the state-owned Forestry Corporation. Love that leads defenders to hold vigil week after week in threatened forests, sometimes locking on to machinery to slow down the carnage that is industrial native forest logging.
Theologian Sallie McFague talks about the cosmos as the Body of God – all bodies as embodying the divine. All bodies as part of an ethical concern, gathered up in the liberating love of God for justice, healing and wholeness.
In a 1991 statement called “The Rights of Nature and the Rights of Future Generations”, the Uniting Church stated that Nature, including ecosystems, has rights because “we believe that God loves the divine creation and wills the development of its life. No creature is indifferent in the eyes of God. Each has its dignity and thereby also its right to existence.”
Koalas are endangered in NSW. Sadly, since the NSW government promised to deliver the Great Koala National Park between Kempsey and Coffs Harbour, the logging (clear-felling) of critical koala habitat inside the proposed park area has continued apace.
The Forest Advocacy Ministry stands in solidarity with the precious forests of the Mid North Coast and all who depend upon them, and works in partnership with others to defend them and end industrial native forest logging in NSW.